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Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014

New beginnings

Posted Wednesday, January 2, 2013, at 11:32 AM

My first meal of the day included black eye peas. My father would have been so proud! From his hillbilly roots in Tennessee we would always include this vegetable on the first day of the New Year. My mother always had to have cabbage as well. Sorry, Mom, I just couldn't pull that one off this year!

We do some very odd things in our lives because of the people and traditions from which we come. Some of these include foods (like on New Years' day), items of clothing for special occasions (such as on weddings), and even changing our walking routes (because of a black cat). Some make very good sense to us ("feed a cold and starve the flu," or is it the other way around?) while others are simply routines or habits with no other justification (throwing salt behind your shoulder). Some are superstitious (at least to others ...) while some have an event or story that goes along with a practice (I always make the sign of the cross upon liftoff in a jet, a practice that goes back to 1977).

And in all cases ("never say absolutes," my aunt would dictate) these very odd things we do are connected to people and loved ones in our past.

These last two weeks have brought back several memories of my parents (gone now for over two years). On average I've thought of them, heard their voices, and have even "seen" them five to ten times a day. The holidays and birthday anniversaries seem to do that to me now. Most of these activated memories last for only a second or two. "She would have loved that," I'll say, or "I'm doing things like he did." Somehow I feel closer to them if for only a second or two. Somehow they live on. And I will smile a knowing smile, laugh from a very deep place, and even shed a tear or two from my heart. I'll say a word or two of thanks to God and the universe for such wonderful memories of love.

While I do believe it's possible, I'm not interpreting these memories as being psychic connections with the great beyond. Rather, I'm revisiting the people and events that have helped to make me who I am. I'm allowing parts of me to breathe and, in so doing, affirming that I am the sum of my parts. In fact, I am the sum of all these people, parents and grandparents and aunts and "kin," best friends and classmates and earlier parishioners and colleagues. Around Christmastime I have a thousand or more flashbacks of cherished moments spent with people who loved me. Around the New Years I have a hundred or more "video-moments" as we dreamed of what our lives would become.

Then I start a new year, a new cycle of life, a new measure of my growth and aging.

I can't start "new beginnings" until I honor the people and events of my past. Sayings and actions can either haunt me or become a loving foundation to the new path I take, day by day, into the New Year.

And isn't it wonderful that we give ourselves the Holidays in order to smile and laugh and cry before we hope and dream and set new goals.

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Sunshine for the Soul
Rev. P.T. Wilson
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P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.
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